Friday, July 4, 2014

'Have Books, Will Travel' is moving!

That's right! Movin' and groovin' and a New Name-

After some debate with myself I decided to take the plunge and move to WordPress sooner than later and with that have come a few changes.

The most noticeable changes are the design {I love my new blog theme!} and, of course, the name. Why the change? Well a few reasons but mainly One Trip at a Time does a much better job of summing up what I blog about. While I still love reading {and will continue to read my way around the world} it certainly isn't prominent enough to get essentially half the name. L suggested 'why not go with the second half of your tag line?' and you know what? It works brilliantly!

So One Trip at a Time it is! I'll still be posting about all my travels as I've done so far on here, along with some travel tips, and lots and lots of photos.

If you follow me on Bloglovin I've set up One Trip at a Time on there and would love for you to continue following me at my new blog. If you follow me by email you can still do that too- just visit any post on my new blog (or click on that link ---> ) and you'll find the 'Subscribe by Email' option on the sidebar.

 I can't wait for you to visit my new blog where I'll continue to explore the world, one trip at a time.

New look for my header. Please visit my blog to see the other changes I've made.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Exploring Normandy and Ypres: Battle Plan Day 3 {Part 3}

Actual Date of Event: March 12, 2014

After spending our early afternoon in Arromanches and the Musée du Débarquement we were off to the remaining two beaches, the Juno Beach Centre, and the Canadian Military cemetery. 

Juno Beach Centre

Juno Beach is the beach the Canadians landed on that proved a military success but costly in terms of men lost. The main task of the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division upon landing was to move inland to cut the Caen-Bayeux road and form a connection between the British beaches, Gold and Sword.

The plan was to land at low tide so the German defensive obstacles would be exposed but low tide was three hours prior to their landing so they were partially submerged. The mines took a toll on the landing craft and destroyed or damaged 30% of them. The men, after wading ashore, were then met with heavy firepower with an estimated 50/50 chance of surviving the gunfire.

After fighting hard for Juno Beach they reached the German positions behind the beach and were able to move inland with some speed to reach their target by the end of the day. The price they paid was 1,200 casualties of the 21,400 men that landed on the beach.

Exhibits at the Juno Beach Centre
In September 1939, Canada declared the state of war and joined its allies by mobilizing the mightiest military force in its history at sea, on land, and in the air. The Juno Beach Centre tells the story of the Canadians who fought in the military, as well as those the waited at home for their return. In the first room we stood in a simulated landing craft to watch a film projected around us showing images of the war, D-Day, as well as families back home describing what they were thinking and feeling at the time.

The permanent exhibits have lots of photographs and other artifacts to tell the story but my favourites are always the more personal documents like letters to home, even the letters sent home with the sad news that a loved one wouldn't be returning. The batteries, bunkers, and guns can tell part of the story but those artifacts are always what gets me. One word. Heartbreaking.

For the Fallen
by Laurence Binyon

They shall grow not old
As we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them
Nor the years condemn;
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning
We will remember them. 

Sword Beach
Sword Beach
Sword Beach was the furthest east of the five beaches used on D-Day that was assigned to units of the British 2nd Army. The area around the beach was lightly defended by the Germans, but only as compared to some of the other beaches, and doesn't mean that the British troops didn't lose soldiers too.

The landings started at 7:25 am and by 8:00 am most of the fighting around the beach was over. By 1:00 pm that day the soldiers had met up with the paratroopers at the bridges over the Orne waterways, but on the right were unable to link up with the Canadian troops from Juno Beach. At 4:00 pm the 21st Panzer Division (German) launched an attack but it wasn't to last long. 

By the end of D-Day the British had 29,000 men landed with 630 casualties. German casualties were much higher and many German soldiers had been taken prisoner, but the Caen objective was still several kilometers away. 

Musée Radar

Musée Radar de Douvres

After our short visit to Sword Beach the sun was starting to set so it was time to make our way to the Canadian War Cemetery which was our last planned stop of the day. On the way though we realized we had come upon the Musée Radar (which was on our list for the morning) so we decided to make our stop then.

This is the site of a former German radar station that was one of the most important radar detection links in the Atlantic Wall defenses with a unique example of the Wurzburg Riese radar. The site was closed so we took in the views through the fence and therefore didn't stay very long. 

Canadian War Cemetery

Before the sun did set on us it was time to make our way to the Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery which is the very peaceful resting place of 2,048 soldiers. A large number of these soldiers were killed in early July 1944 in the Battle of Caen and the also those soldiers that fell during the D-Day assault on Juno Beach. Canadian prisoners of war, that were illegally executed at the Ardenne Abbey, are also interred here. 

After quiet wander it was time for another wonderful day out to wind down. Time to head back for a delicious {and romantic} dinner and our last night at our rustic and charming hotel in Crépon. 

In my next post I'll finish off our time in France as we spend the morning at Pegasus Bridge {with a guest post about this by L!} and at our last WWII cemetery in Ranville. The it is off to Belgium!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Postcard from...Brier Island, Canada

Shame on me. Ten postcards done and none of them have been from my own home country yet! Well I best change that immediately eh?

Brier Island is a small island {7.5 km by 2.5 km} on the westernmost part of Nova Scotia that makes up the Digby Neck along with Long Island. It is driven by the fishing industry year-round and a seasonal tourism industry that is mainly focused on whale watching tours. In fact this photo was taken upon our return from one of those tours where we had spent the better part of the day looking for humpback whales. Unfortunately for us most of the day was much, much foggier than this photo suggests it could have been and we didn't see {but did hear} very many whales. The few we did see were amazing. They are so much bigger than you can imagine, especially when they surface by the boat and just lay there peacefully.

As Brier Island is frequently blanketed in fog it has a "lighthouse per mile" with Northern, Western, and Peter Island lighthouses all automated and operated by the Canadian Coast Guard. The island has seen 57 shipwrecks with the wreck of the "Aurora" in 1908 providing the lumber for the Westport Community Hall on the island.

This tiny island, in addition to being surrounded by whales, is also home to seals, many types of coastal plants and plays host to many birds during their migration. The beaches are also great for exploring tide pools and rock hounding...just be sure to keep an eye on the incoming tide!

Photo taken August 10, 2008
Saturday, June 21, 2014

Day Trips: Beautiful Bodiam Castle

Actual Date of Event: August 1, 2013

Medieval. Dreamy. Romantic. Moated like the sandcastles we used to build at the beach...and you can even arrive by steam engine which only helps transport you back a little further in time, closer to the year 1388 when Bodiam Castle was completed.

One of the many beautiful views of Bodiam Castle {Photo by L}
Our day out in East Sussex, England to visit Bodiam Castle last August actually began with us boarding a restored steam engine in Tenterden for the picturesque ten mile journey through the Rother Valley. The coaches and locomotives, dating back from Victorian times, are operated by the Kent & East Sussex Railway and chug along past little towns, farms, and just generally lots of scenic views.

A step back in time at Tenterden Station

Quiet, picturesque countryside along the rail line {Photo by L}

Upon arrival at the station in Bodiam be sure to allow some time to get up close to the engines especially if you're with a male of any age...they'll need a few minutes to check out all the parts and pieces and see how it all works. You'll definitely have a smiling guy on your hands if you take my advice. :-)

Wonderfully restored steam engine {Photo by L}
 From the rail station it's only a few minutes walk to the castle with great views of it through the trees as you get closer and closer. Keep your camera handy as this castle is one photo op after another.

Bodiam Castle coming into view through the trees {Photo by L}
The castle was built from 1385 to 1388 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge with the permission of Richard II presumably to defend the area against a French invasion during the Hundred Years' War. Looking at it further though historians think it is unusually far from a coastline for this to have really been the reason to build it. Despite this it was built with many defensive features like the crenels (gaps in the stones) at the tops of the towers on each corner and at the entrance that could have been used to shoot arrows through. It is also moated and that would have helped keep attackers from gaining access to the base of the castle's walls. If they did manage to get up to the castle and get to the gatehouse they  then had to contend with the 'murder-holes' where guards would drop all sorts of things on them to get them to turn back- like boiling water, hot sand, and even rats!

Be careful! There are murder-holes behind them gates {Photo by L}
These days, instead of being greeted with rats dropped on your head at the gate, visitors are welcome to stroll the grounds and encouraged to explore the remains of the castle. There are lots of neat little nooks and crannies among the chambers, a water well, and then stairs to allow you to climb the towers for wonderful views of the surrounding countryside from the roof.

Lots of chambers to explore {Photo by L}

Can't beat a view like this {Photo by L}
After exploring I highly recommend finding a spot in the shade under one of the great trees to enjoy an ice cream and maybe even a little afternoon cat nap especially if it is as hot as the day we were there... like 34°C (or 93°F)! My goodness that wasn't the English weather I was hoping for to escape the Houston heat! Oh well it might have been hot but the view way more than made up for it.

Our view of the castle from our resting spot under the tree {Photo by L}

For schedules and fares for the train from Tenterden to Bodiam please visit the Kent & East Sussex Railway site.

For more information about Bodiam Castle like operating hours and rates, please visit the National Trust Collection site.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Exploring Normandy and Ypres: Battle Plan Day 3 {Part 2}

Actual Date of Event: March 12, 2014

Phew! It's been a quite awhile since we were last in Normandy visiting the Bayeux Cathedral and Tapestry but I'm back today to share more of our memories and photos from this great trip.

In today's post we're far from the Mayan ruins, that we were actually in just a couple of weeks ago, and off to visit my favourite battery of our Normandy trip- the Longues Battery. It was here I did my best impression of a celebrity trying not to be recognized {this wasn't the reason this was my favourite one- I just thought it was neat}. I had a scarf around my neck and up over my head, then the hood from my sweater pulled up, and sunglasses was SO windy and chilly! Thankfully L does not sneak pics of me in ridiculous get-ups like this so there is no photographic evidence of what a goof I am. But hey, I was warm!

Three of the guns as viewed from the top of the fourth gun {Photo by L}
Built in 1944 by the Kriegsmarine, the battery was later transferred over the German army. It consisted of four 152-mm navy guns that had a range of over 12 miles- able to fire upon the Omaha and Gold beaches and the landing fleet coming ashore there. The concrete casemates protecting the guns were themselves protected by piles of earth built up along their sides. This helped to cushion the blow, prevent them from tipping over if bombs fell nearby, and also to help conceal them.

One of the four 152-mm guns- they just look so ominous to me.
Three hundred yards ahead, on the edge of the cliff, was the range-finding post. It was fitted with a telemetric aiming device and defended by machine-gun nests, barbed wire, and mines. It was so foggy over the water the day we were there that even though we could look down the cliff's edge and very clearly hear the water beating against the rocks below we couldn't really see anything. I wondered how scared I would have been if I had been a soldier in that post not knowing what could be so close, hiding in all that fog, and getting ready to fire upon me.

During the night of June 5th to 6th the Allies dropped over a thousand pounds of bombs onto the battery but it didn't have a great effect. At dawn on the 6th the battery engaged in an artillery battle with several ships and by evening three of the four guns had been disabled by British cruisers.  The crew of the battery (184 men) surrendered to British soldiers the following day.

View from behind the range-finding post as it looks out to sea

After our visit to Longues Battery it was time to make our way to the town I remembered so well from my trip over in 2011- Arromanches-les-Bains.

Remnants of the Mulberry Harbour {Photo by L}
It was on the beaches of Arromanches that the Allies established an artificial temporary harbour that allowed them to unload heavy equipment before the deep ports of Le Havre and Cherbourg could be captured.  Arromanches is in the center of the Gold Beach {British} landing zone but it was spared as much fighting as possible on D-Day so the harbour could be installed as quickly as possible.

We purposely planned our visit for low tide otherwise I knew from my previous visit that most of the remnants would be under water. It was just good fortune on my visit in 2011 that I was there at low tide because it is so interesting to walk among the pontoons that once held up the floating roadway.

During 100 days of operation this "temporary" port allowed 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles, and 4 million tons of material to come ashore. To say this was an amazing engineering feat is an understatement.

It was still foggy when we arrived but to me that just made it seem all the more sombre. Standing along the boardwalk at the edge of the beach we couldn't see some of the pontoons and then walking out toward the sea they would start to appear before us out of the white blanket, which then cut us off from the town behind us. Not sure if L felt the same but it was a little eerie to me, especially when we couldn't see anyone else around us.

After wandering around for a bit we made our way into the Musée du Débarquement which had a great model of the artificial port with explanations of how it all worked. I highly recommend this for anyone, like me, that just can not visualize how the remnants on the beach fit together and the whole thing worked.

Depiction of the trucks coming ashore on the floating roadways {Photo by L}

Further out in the harbour big ships were able to unload their cargo

The museum had many other exhibits and we wandered through to see them but for me the model of the harbour was worth the price of admission. This museum was something I hadn't had time for when I visited previously so I was happy we had it on the Battle Plan for this trip.

After our visit to Arromanches it was time to make our way to the last two landing beaches- Sword Beach {British} and Juno Beach {Canadian}- and to pay our respects at the Canadian cemetery. In my next post about our Normandy trip I'll finish off our third day in Normandy and show you some photos from these places.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Postcard from...Fredericksburg, USA

Hands down my favourite building along Main Street in Fredericksburg was the Pioneer Memorial Library. I'm a sucker for a library on any day but when it is an old stone building surrounded by big oak trees I'm really drawn to it. Unfortunately it was already closed for the evening when we found it or I would have gone in and wandered through the stacks that are located on the first floor. The second floor functions as a community hall.

The Pioneer Memorial Library is also known as the Fredericksburg Memorial Library or the Old Courthouse and is hard to miss right in the center of town on Main Street. It was designed by Alfred Giles and was built out of limestone in a Romanesque Revival style in 1882 to replace the original 1855 courthouse. In 1967 it was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark and in 1971 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

When the new courthouse was built in Fredericksburg in 1939 this building served other uses until it fell into a state of disrepair and was condemned in 1963. Thankfully Mr. and Mrs. Eugene McDermott {the founders of Texas Instruments} saw to it that it was restored in 1967 as a home for the town's library.

Photo taken May 25, 2014
Sunday, June 15, 2014

Since you last heard from me...

... I have been one busy bee!  One day {sooner than later I hope} I'll have posts written in advance and won't fall off the map for a few weeks at a time when a big trip comes up or I have VIP company in town {miss you already L!}. But I'm back now and have all kinds of new experiences and places I've been to share before I head out on my next adventure that is in just ONE month. My goodness it will be here before I know it. I better get to packing soon! :-)

So since you last heard from me back in May...

I had a weekend get-away in Fredericksburg, TX with L. Just the two of us to catch up, see hundreds of thousands of bats emerge from their cave into the evening sky, do a little snuggling, learn more about WWII at the Museum of the Pacific War, eat some German food, and make an unplanned stop to visit the Texas State Capitol in Austin, TX {instead of Enchanted Rock when the rain just would not let up}.

Old Tunnel State Park for the evening bat emergence
Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, TX
Texas State Capitol in Austin, TX

I let the kiddo play hooky from school one afternoon as he, L, and I played tourist in Houston and visited the Museum of Natural Science. We went for the 3D movie called "D-Day:Normandy 1944" but also spent a few hours wandering through to see dinosaur bones, the Hall of Ancient Egypt, and some Mayan artifacts {to get us pumped for our upcoming cruise...well MORE pumped up really. We were already pretty excited by this point}.

Mummies at the Museum

L, the kiddo and I also played umpteen games of cards over the past few weeks and would you believe it... I won them all! Or at least I can say I won them all since neither of them are here to say otherwise. Guess you'll just have to take my word for it eh? :-)

AND if all of that wasn't fun and exciting enough {which it was!} L, the kiddo, and I got to visit THREE new countries and go on our first ever cruise with Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas! It was a ton of fun and I'll be sharing lots of pictures, stories, and cruising tips in upcoming posts after I'm finished sharing the rest of our trip to Normandy and Ypres. For today though I'll leave you with a photo from each of three countries we visited- Honduras, Belize, and Mexico.

So tomorrow I'll have another postcard and I will pick back up this week where I left off on our trip to Normandy and Ypres. Coming soon I'll also be featuring a special guest post from L as he writes about our visit to Pegasus Bridge.